Writing Effective Meta Descriptions for Google's Ever Changing Rules

With irrelevant display advertisements being increasingly blocked, and no captivating merchandising to rely on in the online world, attracting consumers via digital platforms has always been a tricky and challenging feat.

The importance of SEO (search engine optimisation) and ranking highly in prominent positions on Google's SERPS (search engine results pages) has become more evident in recent times, with marketers across all industries exploring different techniques to captivate their consumers and encourage them to click through to their sites. 

In fact, meta descriptions can help achieve just that, yet they are constantly overlooked as a result of Google's ever-changing algorithm. With reports that Google updates their search algorithm approximately 500-600 times every year, how do marketers prepare engaging and effective meta descriptions that help convert consumers and act as a beneficial SEO technique to improve search rankings

What is a meta description?

Put simply, a meta description is a small snippet of written content that is shown directly below each link and title on the search engine results page, or when the page is shared elsewhere online. In fact, meta description copy is often likened to a sales pitch, helping consumers choose your brand and website over the competition. The snippet is designed to succinctly inform the searcher about how that particular page is relevant to them by incorporating keywords, which will informative yet engaging copy, the meta description should persuade searchers to click through to the website and read more. 

However, writing these meta descriptions can often be challenging with Google constantly changing the length, leaving important information truncated. Furthermore, Google sometimes may not even display the meta description, instead, pulling together text from a page to help inform consumers of the relevance. It's this lack of clarity which leaves many marketers to believe preparing meta descriptions is an obsolete technique and a waste of time. In reality, these descriptions play a crucial role in search engine optimisation and can even benefit Google Advertising campaigns, formerly known as Google AdWords.

How do meta descriptions benefit SEO and Google Ads campaigns?

There is common confusion surrounding the impact of meta descriptions and its impact on SEO. In fact, Google has stated on numerous occasions that meta descriptions may be used for the snippets feature under links, however, the description meta tag is not used a ranking signal. However, while Google states writing meta descriptions does not directly impact search rankings, one factor that is favoured by the search giant is consumer relevance and engagement. 

In fact, year after year, Search Engine Land develops a Search Engine Optimisation Periodic Table that explains the success factors for improved rankings, with factors like engagement and authority high up on the list. Therefore, it is argued that the snippets of text help consumers decide if a page is relevant to their query which persuades them to click through and engage with the website. If numerous amounts of individuals are constantly clicking through to the website and engaging with the content on the page for a generous amount of time, it may also be inferred that the particular page has a level of authority. Therefore, with meta descriptions helping to attracting consumers to web pages, the technique inherently impacts SEO ranking factors. 

Alternatively, it is argued that the common online marketing and advertising service, Google Advertising, can also help improve the effectiveness of meta descriptions and organic search results, and vice versa. For example, advertising copy has generally been tested and split test multiple times in order to drive the most possible clicks. By looking at your own Google campaign and analysing the best possible results, or looking at the copy of your competitors for inspiration, you can then develop relevant and engaging meta descriptions and organic search copy that has already been tested and is achieving results. Similarly, you can explore the high ranking meta descriptions for particular keywords to determine the most relevant and engaging copy for your Google Advertising campaign.

How to write an effective meta description?

Despite the implications effective meta descriptions have on SEO, Google's constantly evolving algorithm makes it difficult for many to prepare useful and relevant meta description content. For example, just last December, Google announced that the meta description would be extended from its previous 155-character limit to now being truncated after 320 characters. However, only a few weeks ago, in mid-may, Moz reported that Google's algorithm again shifted, reverting back to the old and widely accepted 155-character limit. As many SEO specialists poured their time and effort into extending their meta descriptions back in December 2017, Google's latest updated has left many confused and easily frustrated. 

However, there are a few techniques that digital marketing professionals and experts at SEO agencies can utilise to prepare effective meta descriptions regardless of Google's constant updates. In fact, as aforementioned, it is not always guaranteed that the prepared meta description will be displayed by Google, therefore these techniques will ensure time is not wasted, yet results are maximised. 

Whether you prepare meta descriptions to the current algorithm and a strict 155-character limit or decide to extend it slight despite possible truncation, copy should be prepared in the journalistic "inverted pyramid" writing pattern. This pattern ensures that the most important and relevant information is prepared first, with the less important information at the end. Therefore, if Google's algorithm and character length does fluctuate over time, the most important information is not spared regardless. Furthermore, some copywriters even argue that truncation is not necessarily a bad thing for meta descriptions for two reasons; the first being that the reader should have a good indication whether the site is relevant to them by the first few words, while an ellipsis may cause intrigue and be an interesting tactic to persuade consumers to read more.

Navigating Google's complicated and constantly changing rules can be exhausting and confusing, particularly as changes are reverted without warning. Staying on top of Google's ever-changing algorithm is essential as the changes can have a great impact on various SEO services. The most recent update has seen the search giant again limit its previously extended meta description character limit, creating much debate about the use of the technique. While the changes are frequent and unpredictable, meta descriptions are still beneficial for organic rankings and adopting an inverted journalistic writing pattern to engage audiences is an optimal technique for overcoming Google's complex rules.  

At RGC Advertising, we are an SEO Agency based in Sydney with expertise in various SEO services and techniques that connect consumers to brands. To learn more about search engine optimisation and how to adapt to Google's constant algorithm updates to improve your organic rankings, please contact Richard on (02) 8883 2988 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.